Thank you for clearing the table (a wife & mother’s honest reflections)

A few days ago, I stood over the kitchen sink staring at the dishes piled up. I was worn out, sneezing with watery eyes from a cold, and the kids were in typical fighting mode against one another. I needed help and I prayed. I didn’t want to nag and get angry like I do some nights.

Within minutes, God heard my prayer and my husband Jeremiah began gathering the plates, silverware, and glasses from the table and set them on the countertop where I was washing greasy pots and pans. He ordered the kids to take their plates to me. He went for several trips back to gather all that we had from having company over.

You see, some wisdom my mom passed on to Jeremiah not long after we had our second child was how much she appreciated my dad always clearing the table for her after dinner. It made such a difference (and encouragement) in her clean up routine. Jeremiah has cleared the table for me most nights since that conversation six years ago.

I think as wives we could all agree there are many things our husbands do that are often over-looked in the daily, beautiful mess of our ever-changing lives: replacing light bulbs, getting dirty under the car, helping put kids to bed at night, locking the doors, taking out trash, taking care of us financially, assisting with DIY projects, just getting done what needs to be done, and meeting countless other needs.

But how often do we thank our husbands and affirm them in all that they do, everyday? Has having a heart of gratitude become a lifestyle for us?

It’s easy to point out the negative or what we’d like to see changed in them. It’s easy to nag to death, rather than let the Holy Spirit move in their hearts.

It takes humility and discipline to build him up with our words, rather than tear down in our stubborn pride. It takes an opening of our blind eyes to see all the blessings that are right smack dab in front of us if we’ll only take time to pause, look, and reflect on the beauty of those blessings at our feet.

Our husbands are God’s gift to us, whether they do things exactly how we like them or not. They are God’s provision and protection over us. It is a joy to come alongside them and work together for a purpose and passion.

How God has wired and uniquely gifted your husband is to your benefit and your children’s. God knew what he was doing when he put you two together (even if you sometimes think you’re clearly from two different planets).

You’d think after almost 12 years of marriage that I’d have this whole “building up, appreciating my husband thing” down. But I don’t always. I fall short. I’m praying I will affirm him more and encourage him in all that God has created him to be. I want to be a wife who better praises him, thanks him, and shows him through my actions and behavior that he is worthy; that he is my man and I love him.

I want him to know how much the sacrifices he makes mean to our family and that without him, we would just never be the same. I want him to know that clearing the table every night might seem like such a simple act, but it’s a big deal. It communicates that we’re a team, we’re in this together for a greater purpose, and that my work as a wife and mom is noticed and cared about. The burden is lifted when it’s shared.

As his wife I’ll still fail, have emotional ups and downs, and not always appreciate him the way I should but I’m striving to be the wife God has called me to be, even in my brokenness and weaknesses. I resonate with Ann Voskamp’s words in her book One Thousand Gifts:

I want to see beauty. In the ugly, in the sink, in the suffering, in the daily, in all the days before I die, the moments before I sleep.

Even if it doesn’t seem attainable, thankfully with Jesus living in us as wives, having a heart of gratitude is possible. When I’m doing the dishes tonight, I’ll be thankful for the abundance of food that six bellies were able to consume because provision has been richly made for us first and foremost through the Lord and the hands of my hard-working husband.

Samantha Krieger is a pastor’s wife and mom to 4. She is the author of Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches.

Subscribe to SamanthaKrieger.com & receive weekly encouragement:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Faith Reflections from Today’s Solar Eclipse

Today, I met my friend Katie at our city park for a picnic lunch with our kids to watch the solar eclipse. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect in this phenomenon. I pressed my protective eye wear against my face and looked up at the bright sun.

And there it was. The moon was beginning to cover the sun and it was beautiful. My eyes were focused on the bright orange ring. The darkness began to steadily cover the light within a matter of minutes.

I was amazed that though I couldn’t see this spectacle with my bare eyes, it was still there. God’s creation and glory was clearly on display. His handiwork. His doing. And here I stood as a finite, imperfect being, staring up at the sky observing all this grandeur. I was just a tiny dot on the map. God is the Master-craftsman who formed it all – the heavens and the earth, the skies and the seas, the plants and animals, you and me.

I think about the verse in Hebrews:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” –  (11:1)

Even though I cannot see God, he is here. Even though I can barely scratch the surface in understanding his beauty, holiness, majesty, and greatness, He is still God. Creator and Father. He holds everything together.

Observing the solar eclipse, among many other people today, gave me greater confidence in my faith. Just because I don’t see God working in the darkness and struggles in my own life or in this world, doesn’t mean he is not doing something. The truth is that he’s always moving. He is not slow to keep his promises.

“Look on the ground!” Katie says.

Circular, light reflections from the eclipse dance on the park’s sidewalk below the swaying trees. We snap pictures with our phones and the kids continue to play. The sky grows a little darker and an eeriness is in the air. The landscape looks “metallic-like.” The breeze brushes against our cheeks.

Our friend Sarah joins in on the fun.

The eclipse is at 98% – almost completely dark from where we stood. Darkness covers the sun, but there is still a speck of light. It certainly was a historical moment.

“I want to be out here with the eclipse forever!” says Katie’s daughter Alaina. We agree tickled by her joy.

Sometimes what we see here on earth is jaded. The lens through which we see is muddled. When we begin to see life through the correct lens and ask God for a greater understanding of who he is, we’ll begin to see the glory and beauty we’ve been longing for. We’ll see that our faith, after all, is solidified and we can trust Him fully for who he says that he is and what he will do in our lives.

“I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me…” – Isaiah 45:5

Why God doesn’t always give us what we want

Recently my family and I were on our summer vacation at a Christian retreat center and I decided to grab a Gold Peak sweet tea out of the vending machine before the speaking session. The man in front of me pressed the buttons for a Mountain Dew and to his surprise a Diet Coke came out instead.

“Aw man, it gave me what I needed, not what I wanted,” he turned around and said to me.

I smiled and empathized with him, offering my extra change.

“No, it’s okay. I’ll just take it anyway,” he said reluctantly.

As I went to carefully press the buttons for my tea, I thought about his words and how true they were in our spiritual lives.

Jesus is concerned about what we need, more than what we want. In fact, our wants, desires, and cravings can often lead us down a path of unneccesary pain, hurt, and tears: Coveting something that is not ours to the point of our family’s ruin, desiring the latest fad that only leaves us feeling empty, overindulging in sugar that gives us exhaustian and an expanded waistline, and more.

Jesus is the one able to give us more than we can think of or imagine. He is more than a quick fix but offers us everlasting joy and peace because he is the Living Water. What we see and long for here on earth barely sctraches the beauty and majesty of the abundant life that he says he offers us today and into eternity. He knows what our soul needs most and it is Christ alone. Nothing more. Nothing added. No substitutes. Not Jesus + _______ (you fill in the blank).

It seems though, that we’re still on a meaningless chase to find happiness and joy that is already in front of us.

C.S. Lewis famously quoted:

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Jesus is the only one who can bring the lasting infinite joy and pleasure that our souls are longing for so deeply. Truly, we know we were made for something beyond ourselves and what this world skillyfully markets to us, but is a false sense of happiness and security.

Later in the day, as my kids play in the white sand and build castles with sticks, leaves, and rocks, they’re in their own world with not much at their fingertips but the gift of nature. Yet, they’re pleased, satisfied, and completely entertained. They laugh and dance by the water. The sand covers their skin and they’re hot now.

“Let’s take a dip in the cool water!” I say.

“Yeah!” they yell, setting their shovels and buckets down for a better reward of crashing waves and clean skin. Their bodies are engulfed by the refreshing water and their little souls are refreshed.

May we be men and women who are not too easily pleased by the “wants” in our life, but instead are “all in” when it comes to enjoying the beauty, greatness, and holiness of our God who promises that when we come to him that we’ll never be thirsty again.

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” – John 7:37

Why God doesn’t always give us what we want was originally published on Kirk Cameron’s site, The Courage.

 

Samantha Krieger is a pastor’s wife, mama, and author of Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches.

 

 

 

Subscribe to SamanthaKrieger.com & receive weekly encouragement:

Delivered by FeedBurner

We All Have to Grow Up

krieger1

photo: Katie Bowman, 2012

Rebekah has looked up to her big brother John since the day she was born. In fact, he is the one who named her “Bekah” after he couldn’t say her full name Rebekah. John was her first friend, her first fight, and her first fun! She has never known life apart from him and oh does she love him and look up to him fiercely.

It’s hard to believe that on Thursday, John will show her the ropes in his school. It will now be her school – they will go together. Actually, when Bekah was in her three’s and four’s (the hardest years ever for me), I often wished for her to be a little older so I could manage the meltdowns better. I struggled so much and I had no idea how fast it would go by and that it was only a season, soon to change. When I saw our recent church photo, I realized just how much our family is growing up. Kindergarten has come and it came so fast.churchfamilyphoto

In the same way that we don’t keep returning to preschool year after year, relearning the basics over and over again, we’re also called to grow up in our faith.

Do you ever feel that resistance not to want to change? I would rather stay in Neverland. I have been reminded of this a lot lately as I see my struggles, hurts, and habits for what they truly are in the bright light – kind of ugly – an insecurity, unforgiveness, or slothfulness in different areas. When I see sinfulness inside me, I’m reminded that I have a lot of maturing to do.

1 Corinthians 13: 11-12 says,

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

IMG_5234

Just as a child only has a limited frame of reference and understanding, spiritually we are the same. We can only see life from a limited point of view here on earth. Like my own children, my understanding is imperfect and I have much to learn about God. It’s like trying to see through a mirror that is smudged, cloudy, scratched, dirty, and even broken. My perspective isn’t what it should be.

But soon, we won’t see through a jacked up mirror. We will see face to face the glory and majesty of God and we will eventually know what we don’t yet know right now. Not partially, but fully. 

I’m thankful that while I have so much growing up to do, one day, I will see things as God sees them in its fullest. I will see his people the way he sees them. I will see his plan how he sees it. In heaven, the things we valued and were obsessed about here on earth will be a shadow compared to the beauty and light of Jesus, who is the only one who satisfies our souls.

Growing up and maturing is never easy. I might cry on Thursday or I might be happy and thankful for the break – probably both. But moving ahead is a necessity. When we move past the basics spiritually, we are changed. And it is then that we do begin seeing a little more how heaven sees and we are fine leaving Neverland in order to grow deeper and stronger in our faith.

When God Feels Far: From Barren to Beautiful

13000412_10102547634542308_443667638_oThis morning as I was getting breakfast and glanced outside our kitchen window, I noticed the first few buds beginning to burst with flowers. On Monday when my husband and I left for the Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville, there was no sign of new life. The trees were barren.

Today, even though it is dark and gloomy outside and thunderstorms and rain are in the forecast, there is an explosion of new life in my yard.

“Look kids! The flowers are budding!” I said.

They jumped out of their seats and ran outside to see. My son John snapped some photos of the new life before his big brown eyes.

During the winter months, the hardened buds and lifelessness from the trees are all we see but we know that in Spring, the buds are set up to blossom again. And much of the deadness all around us in the winter months actually protects the buds so they will sprout again and in the right time.

Similarly, I’ve gone through seasons of intense dryness spiritually where my soul is cold and numb to the things of the Lord. Where I don’t thirst for Jesus, the Living Water, as I should. Where I don’t treasure the gospel like I should and cling to his all-sufficient grace because I’m selfish, full of pride, the difficulties of life have choked me, and idols fill my heart. I have sometimes questioned, “Is God even working in the cold, winter months of my soul? Is he here?”

I’m still in a season of struggle or should I say “struggling well,” where I desire to be closer to Jesus and further away from my sin. But I know He is here just as sure as Spring promises new life.

I may not see the fruit in the waiting, but I know he is working. I may not behold what I want to “now.” I may not see change or growth in my anger, control, and people-pleasing struggles right away but it will come. This process of sanctification changes in each season and it is indeed a process of patience. Motherhood teaches me this every, single day.

We may not think we are growing or becoming a different person right now, but God sees the last paintbrush stroke on the canvas.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:6

In his grace, God carries us all the way to becoming more like his Son. It is always a gift of grace. And perhaps the greatest truth is that we can’t do it in our own feeble strength. But we can always look to Him for help.

What might appear as barren and cold in our souls, if we wait patiently, might actually be beautiful in due time. Just like the buds are exploding with new life, color, and vibrance, I know that God is fully able to work in our life in a way that we’ve never experienced before.

My One Word Resolution for 2016

devotionimage

Several years ago, I ditched writing down the long list of New Year’s resolutions and instead adopted the idea of sticking to a one word theme for the whole year thanks to the website MyOneWord.org. It’s not that I didn’t fulfill my goals in past years, but when I fell short on them, I felt like a failure. Plus, I needed more simplicity and something different.

I loved the idea of choosing one word to inspire you the whole year and throughout each day. On our way driving back from Christmas vacation in the Midwest, I saw a church sign that read:

Daily devotion is better than a New Year’s Resolution.

That really struck a chord with me. I want to be devoted daily to the disciplines and responsibilities that are required of me right now, rather than being so committed to a pie in the sky resolution that isn’t specific or realistic.

In 2014, I chose to go with the word discipline. In 2015, I picked the word joy. And this year, it took me a few days to decide on the word C L E A N. I don’t know about you, but there are areas in my life that need some cleaning. I’m naturally a bit messy. I have to work hard at organization. My brain just doesn’t function in an orderly manner all the time. I want to be clean in the respect of my home.

Spiritually, I desire to have a clean heart and lips. I want my heart to be pure so I can more clearly hear from the Lord. I want to build others up this year with my words. I also want to have clean eating – less foods that include preservatives and additives and more foods made from scratch. I’m sure as the year progresses, I’ll find more areas that involve the word  C L E A N.

IMG_1776

In case you set some New Year’s Resolutions and are finding it difficult to stay committed to them, may I suggest that you choose one word for your 2016 instead? Some ideas for your word could be: balance, contentment, freedom, strength, trust, courage, prayer, simplicity, service, perseverance, peace, healthy, community, creativity, and more. It might take some time to think about which word suits you well. Once you have the word, write down why you chose it and what you hope to gain from committing to that word. You could go even further and paste it on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror so it’s easily visible. The important thing is that you allow yourself to be regularly reminded of it so you can take daily action.

2016 is a clean slate and a time to start from scratch. May you have a great beginning, daily devoting yourself to the tasks in front of you right now.

Have you already chosen your one word? What word do you think suits you well for 2016?

Blessings,

Samantha

Summer in Holyoke: A Little Taste of Heaven

I was recently offered the opportunity to write a column for our local newspaper. It has been so much fun! This article was originally published in my column: Samantha’s Salt in The Holyoke Enterprise – September 3, 2015 (photos included in this blog post only).

First Baptist Church Holyoke

Jeremiah caught this rainbow a few weeks ago. Our new church home: First Baptist Church Holyoke (side & back view)

Before my husband began the interview process for his job in Holyoke, we never knew such a town existed on the map. The mountains were all we’d experienced in Colorado so it was a surprise to learn of the Northeastern plains. When we drove in for the first time and saw the cornfields, water tower, parks, elementary school, and nicely manicured lawns, I could sense it was a special place. The serenity is what struck me most.

I didn’t grow up in a small, rural town. I moved twice in my childhood and my dad’s work brought us to medium-sized cities on the east coast. During my summer breaks in college, I traveled overseas and did several out of state publishing internships. After I met my husband at seminary in Virginia, we moved to Dallas for more schooling. The big city has been our life for the past eight years.

IMG_7954 (1)

Breaking in our new yard. This will be the year of the John Deer 🙂

In June, when our big yellow Penske truck made its way to our driveway, I felt the baseline stress of the big city falling off my shoulders. The air was clean. The wide-open spaces refreshed my spirit. The slow pace of life was new to me and was what my soul had been craving. The orange, yellow, pink, and red radiant bursts of color in the sky at sundown gave me something to look forward to each evening.

Before we moved out, I wondered how the adjustment would go. Would I go into shock not having access to all the “stuff” and entertainment? Would it be difficult living somewhere more remote?

I miss those conveniences occasionally. But the majority of the time I appreciate fewer choices and less stuff. Less temptation is present to hit the Starbucks and Chick-fil-a drive thru. Amazon Prime has been my best friend. You can’t beat free two day shipping. We have taken a few trips out to the surrounding cities and it’s always nice to return.

IMG_8503

Will in the field of dandelions behind our house

My kids have found joy in exploring new swimming pools, lakes, parks, dirt roads, animals, and farms. My son got to ride on a combine for the first time and learn about harvesting. Our new church family has opened up their arms to us and is becoming the family we couldn’t bring with us.

The ability to hop on our bikes and ride to Subway, Heidi’s (the dirty chai tea latte is my favorite), mail a package without waiting in a long line, or peruse The Oak Tree is something I’ve never had before. And a 1-minute drive to the marketplace… it doesn’t get any better than that when you practically live at the grocery store with four young mouths to feed.

I realize the story I’m writing may be different when the streets are blanketed with ice and snow and all I’ll want to do is hibernate under the covers. Since it’s human nature, I will probably grow familiar with the charm and hidden blessings this little town has to offer. I know it’s not a perfect town- no place is. No people are.

12032349_10102246540751678_1138077519_nBut I pray that my heart will always find something to be grateful for here. Many people would love to live in such a place where you get the kind of “feel” you just don’t have on city streets. Where you meet some really special people who genuinely care for others – whether it’s found in a friendly wave, a genuine conversation, or in a surprise vegetable delivery on your front porch.

I definitely realize your perspective may be different than mine, especially if you’ve lived here all your life. I’m an outsider looking in. I find it amazing that you could stay planted somewhere for so long. But now I understand why. You’re in Holyoke.

As the leaves will soon fall to the ground and the air grows crisp, I will remember and be thankful for what this town meant to our family this summer – a little taste of heaven in the midst of a big transition.

And as the Lord wills, we do plan on staying a while.

12033598_10102246532203808_2022383744_n

My One Word Resolution

track

Thanks to the inspiration from MyOneWord.org, I’m losing the long list of resolutions this year and choosing just one word as a theme for the year.

D I S C I P L I N E

It’s the word that keeps coming to my mind, even though it’s not a popular one.

To take it a little deeper, I desire more discipline in…

speaking less and listening more

cultivating deeper relationships

relying less on caffeine

journaling about everyday life

affirming and uplifting my husband

not comparing myself to others

knowing Scripture

sitting on the floor with my children

wisely/intentionally stewarding the gifts and resources God has entrusted to me

putting letters in the mail

my personal time with Jesus

realistically working off baby weight

sharing stories of God’s love and grace

joyfully serving my husband and children

consuming less and creating more

giving my anxiety struggles to the Lord

controlling my emotions

being bold in sharing my faith

laughing more and stressing less

… and more as I continue to reflect on the theme of discipline in 2014.

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. – the Apostle Paul, 1 Cor. 9:24-27

Have you made any resolutions or considered choosing one word you’d like to focus on?

Book Review & Giveaway – Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me by Karen Swallow Prior

booked

A while back, my former college professor and friend, Karen Swallow Prior, sent me a copy of her new book to read and review. She also gave me a copy to giveaway on my blog. I’m excited to finally share this with you as Karen is very dear to me.

Review – Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me 

In Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me author and beloved friend Karen Swallow Prior writes a beautiful and insightful memoir connecting her love for literature to her own life experiences and personal faith in God. From a very young age, books (and animals) have been an integral part of Karen’s life so it’s only natural that her first published book is titled Booked.

In each chapter, Karen skillfully weaves a great literature classic (Charlotte’s Web, Great Expectations, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Gulliver’s Travel and Jane Eyre to name a few) and relates the main and subtle themes of the novel to her life. Karen helps you see these classics through a biblical lens, ultimately leading you to a greater discovery of self and ultimately God.

booked1

Whether you’re familiar with classic literature or not, you’ll fall in love with Karen’s humor, intellect, story-telling, authenticity, depth, and ability to “show” rather than tell a life story. It’s as if you were there with her in every emotion and experience. It’s difficult not to read on to the next chapter.

Having sat under Karen’s teaching for four years as a college student, Booked brought me back to my undergraduate years in Liberty University’s English Department where I fondly remember her contagious passion for the written word and for students to truly grasp just how much words have the power to change a life.

When you finish reading Booked you’ll be encouraged by the truth that God will meet you anywhere at anytime. As Karen writes, “He met me where I was. In the books.” And He reveals Himself in such a way for the purpose of redemption and life transformation.

priorAbout the author: Karen Swallow Prior is Professor of English at Liberty University and an award-winning teacher. She is a contributing writer for Christianity Today, where she blogs frequently at Her.meneutics. Her writing has appeared in Relevant, Think Christian, and Salvo. She is a member of the Faith Advisory Council of the Humane Society of the United States. She and her husband live on a 100-year old homestead in central Virginia with horses, dogs, and chickens. And lots of books.

** To enter to win a free copy of Booked, please leave a comment on this post. The winner will be chosen using Random.org and announced on Monday. 

New Article: 8 Non-Negotiables for Dads with Daughters- KirkCameron.com

dadsdaughters-300x180

kirkcameron.com

Lately, I’ve been inspired by the importance of the daddy-daughter relationship and I wrote about it recently on KirkCameron.com. After all, I’m a Daddy’s girl myself!

This was my first article geared primarily for dads and I’ve been so humbled by the response it’s getting and have really appreciated hearing from readers. It makes me realize this is truly a need in our culture today. Feel free to share your thoughts over there and thanks for reading!

8 Non-Negotiables for Dads with Daughters

A couple months ago, my kids were playing upstairs when my two-year-old daughter Rebekah starts screaming at the top of her lungs. I ran upstairs to find that she’d cut her eyebrow from jumping off the bed onto her brother’s train table.

Since it looked bad, I called my neighbor for help so I could take Rebekah to the Urgent Care clinic. After waiting and being seen, the doctor explained that she’d need three stitches. The nurses and I held Rebekah down while the doctor threaded her skin. Her eyes filled with tears as she shouted, “D-a-d-d-y … D-a-d-d-y!”

Read the rest over on KirkCameron.com

Switch to desktop version